Published August 16, 2004
KLAMATH FALLS, Oregon – The Endangered Species Act (search) has left Native Americans and environmentalists pitted against farmers and ranch families 30 years after it was passed.
Nowhere is that conflict more apparent than in Klamath Falls, Ore., where in 2001 federal officials shut off irrigation water to protect endangered fish.
"How did 2001 affect me? My farm, how do you say, went 'bye bye,'" said former farmer Venacio Hernandez.
Environmentalists consider the act a success because it protected threatened species by stopping development and saving habitat. The act was passed to protect 100 species but it now protects more than 1,300, sealing off millions of acres from development.
"There has to be balance. If we continue down this road — doing away with the ESA to solve this problem — we are deceiving ourselves," said Allen Foreman of Klamath Tribes (search).
While screens have saved thousands of fish from being sucked into canals and irrigators have become more efficient, the problem is far from solved because there is still too much demand and not enough water.
A more comprehensive solution, like knocking down dams, requires more money and less animosity. As for the ESA, while many agree it is broken, Congress can't agree on how to fix it, especially in an election year.
Click on the video box at the top of this story to watch a report by FOX News' William LaJeunesse.